If the Green Bay Packers are to complete their improbable journey to a fifth consecutive playoff berth, they’ll likely have to do it without outside linebacker Clay Matthews.
The four-time Pro Bowler re-injured his right thumb on a sack of Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the second quarter of Sunday’s 38-31 loss to the Steelers and didn’t return.
Matthews missed a month of the season after undergoing surgery for a Bennett’s fracture he sustained in a 22-9 win over Detroit on Oct. 6. Based on the initial diagnosis, it appears it could be season-ending.
“I couldn’t give you a time line but I think based off the history of what happened the first time, I’m told it’s similar to the repeat injury,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said afterward.
Matthews has 41 tackles, 7˝ sacks and three forced fumbles in 11 games this season, and seemed to be returning to form the last few weeks after being neutralized upon his initial return by a large club.
He’d scaled down to a small cast as of late, but was writhing in pain on the sidelines before walking to the locker room and not returning.
The sack of Roethlisberger was the 50th of Matthews' career.
“I was sad for Clay because Clay was having a great game and sad for our team, but ultimately we’re taught to just keep going and I think we did that,” said defensive lineman B.J. Raji, a fellow first-round pick by the Packers in 2009 who helped console Matthews after the play.
Matthews signed a long-term extension with the Packers in the offseason after missing four games in 2012 with a hamstring injury. Second-year linebacker Nick Perry and rookie Andy Mulumba replaced him in the second half.